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Lord of the Rings Gandalf

Alchemy Horizons 2023: Possible Candidates

Alchemy Horizons: Baldurs Gate released in early July, and has been able to noticeably make an impact on both Alchemy and Historic formats. With a mix of reprints from paper sets and several new digital-only designs, it expanded the power level of both formats, provided some key reprints that will remain legal in Alchemy post-rotation, and also experimented with what’s doable on the client. It’s worth pointing out, though, that it pulled from paper products that, for the most part, are generally lower-powered and direct-to-Legacy.

With the upcoming Wizards Presents stream on August 18th, we will be getting a mostly full picture of the paper product lineup for 2023. That also means, we’re likely to get a clearer idea of what set or sets could be turned into the next Alchemy Horizons set sometime next summer. With that being said, I do think there are some current candidates that are worth discussing, including one coming next year that may fill the slot perfectly.

The Lord of the Rings: Takes of Middle-Earth™

The Lord of the Rings: Takes of Middle-Earth™
Gandalf Art by Dmitry Burmak

The first and possibly most obvious option is the upcoming Lord of the Rings set, Tales of Middle-Earth. We’re likely to learn a lot more about it and it’s release date in ten days, but what we do know currently is that the product was announced as straight-to-Modern for paper and straight-to-Historic on Arena. You’d think that would automatically disqualify it, but that announcement was made well before Alchemy was a format.

Having it (or a modified version of it, potentially) as the next Alchemy Horizons set allows it to remain a Historic set, avoiding Standard and Explorer / Pioneer, while also adding a bunch of new cards to the Alchemy card pool. We also know it’s probably being worked on by the Casual Play Design team, not the Competitive Play Design team, so it’ll likely skew lower in power level. It’s probably the simplest option possible, so Occam’s Razor suggests it’s likely the set to fill the hole we’re discussing. That being said, I do want to discuss a few other, less likely possibilities.

A Masters Set

Blightsteel Colossus Art by Wayne Reynolds
Blightsteel Colossus Art by Wayne Reynolds

One option I do think is at least a little interesting is if the set is a Double Masters or even just Masters-based set. Masters sets are often lauded for their high power level cards, while also condemned for how many “value whiffs” exist within them. I could see a scenario where Wizards pulls from both Double Masters sets or even all previous Masters sets and just curates a set evocative of that sort of release while still skewing for a relatively low power level.

Double Masters, in particular, is interesting because it started life as “Artifact Masters”, and the next two sets (Dominaria United and The Brothers’ War) are likely to have artifact themes, and if 2023 starts with a war on New Phyrexia as is speculated, we could see even more artifact themes there. Having “Alchemy Horizons: Artifact Masters” next summer to really expand what you can do with the theme in a Standard-adjacent format while also expanding the Historic card pool (where Affinity is already a good deck) makes a heck of a lot of sense to me.

Commander Legends

Prossh, Skyraider of Kher Art by Todd Lockwood
Prossh, Skyraider of Kher Art by Todd Lockwood

Another option that seems to make a decent amount of sense within the context of the first Alchemy Horizons is the original Commander Legends. Commander Legends was considered a powerful set for Commander, and even had a couple of cards that impacted Legacy, but would generally be considered a set filled with a lot of lower-power cards. Partner, as a mechanic, functions similarly to Choose a Background, of course, so there are a lot of cards that could be “reworked” to have Specialize or even some entirely new mechanic again, and both Encore and the Monarch, like Myriad, could be reworked into new mechanics, as well.

There are several interesting cards to toss in, as well, that could really be power players in the format. Austere Command, for example, makes a lot of sense as an option for Alchemy once Farewell rotates out. Expanding the card pool of Historic is likely a secondary goal here, too, and there are a lot of options that are probably safe for Alchemy that boost either Historic or Cubes on the client.

Conspiracy

Queen Marchesa Art by Kieran Yanner
Queen Marchesa Art by Kieran Yanner

The last option I want to discuss while talking about reworking existing products into an Alchemy Horizons is Conspiracy, sets focused on the multiplayer experience. There are two Conspiracy sets in paper that don’t make much sense on Arena as-is given how the draft matters mechanics and Conspiracies would play out on the client. Taking the base of the sets and reworking both mechanics into something new potentially gives them a lot of options, especially since so much of the two sets consists of relatively low-power reprints.

We also get access to a handful of Planeswalkers here that could be reasonable to toss in. Dack Fayden, in particular, is a popular character and card in eternal formats, so putting him on the client would likely be met with a reasonable amount of excitement. This is, I think, the least likely option of the ones I’ve mentioned, but still a possibility all the same, given how unlikely it is that Conspiracy drafts ever come to the client. “Alchemy Horizons: Conspiracy” solves for this by allowing them to leverage that card pool in a way that makes sense for Arena.

Something Completely New?

I do have to mention the very real possibility that Alchemy Horizons 2023 is something entirely new. This is super unlikely, I feel, given the hefty amount of work that would be needed with regards to design, development, and artwork. It’d be a significantly more costly endeavor, which doesn’t make sense given how relatively unpopular Alchemy as a format is. On top of that, having no actual paper cards in the set would likely not help make the release more palatable for the player base who already has a disinterest or even active loathing for the format. I wouldn’t bet money on this one, that’s for sure.

Conclusion

Alchemy continues to be in a bad spot as a format. The ladder is still a ghost town, despite the upcoming Arena Qualifier and the associated Play-In events being Alchemy. There’s a general unhappiness with the format’s current state, as there are basically only two viable decks: Esper variants and Revels Combo variants. Wizards missed an opportunity for rebalances within the last two weeks to impact the meta, as well, leaving many online very uneasy about the format’s health and future. I honestly had presumed the format would be quietly discontinued prior to the release of Alchemy Horizons: Baldurs Gate, but the sudden appearance of it as a Qualifier this month, alongside the relatively positive reception to the set gave me some amount of hope. I enjoy Alchemy both as a format and as a concept, and I believe making it draftable was the secret to making it more accessible to the masses.

Alchemy Horizons 2023 is almost assuredly coming, again barring the discontinuation of the format. Conversations about what it will likely be are probably already going on. We likely won’t get any clues about it in the Wizards Presents stream on the 18th, given how unconnected the Arena team seems to be from the paper side these days. The paper products will mostly be coming to Arena anyway, and given the strength of the client in terms of player base, it’ll likely be one of the main ways players experience the cards anyway. When will we learn something about Alchemy Horizons 2023? Hard to say, but the first was announced in March 2022, so maybe the announcement schedule will mirror that for the follow up, or maybe we’ll be surprised and see it in the stream. As usual, I’m excited for the future of digital Magic regardless, and am always thinking about what’s coming next for Magic Arena.

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Metallix87
Metallix87

My name is Jose Manuel Lopez. I've been playing Magic: the Gathering since 1999. I was previously a paper tournament grinder for several years, but shifted my competitive focus almost entirely to digital with the release of MTG Arena. I also am an avid Cube designer, and I'm relatively active within a niche Cube community which focuses on Spike-oriented Cube design. I've played every major format competitively at one point or another, and I play Commander semi-regularly, as well. I love Magic, it's my favorite game, and I play it and/or talk about it almost every single day. I often say that Magic is like pizza, since even "bad" Magic is still Magic, and that mantra pushes me to engage with the game and the overall Magic community regularly to both keep up with what's going on in Magic, and also try to share my passion for the game with others.

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